Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, a festive celebration held in many regions around the globe. Mistaken by many outside of Mexico to be Mexico’s Independence Day, it is actually a day to commemorate the military victory at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 (an underdog’s story of a people’s struggle to remain independent). By 1862, both British and Spanish forces had withdrawn from Mexico, but the French remained in an attempt to establish a monarchy. On May 5, 1862 inadequately equipped Mexican forces under Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza clashed with French troops killing approximately 1,000 French troops. While Zaragoza won the battle, Mexico ultimately lost the war and the French installed Maximilian of Austria as Emperor. Finally, in 1867 Mexico was able to drive the French out and restore the Mexican government.
Celebrated only sporadically in Mexico, it gained popularity in the USA during the 20th century. Initially the Mexican-American community began embracing the day as a time to celebrate their heritage. Today it has gained mainstream popularity even in many cities and towns without a large Hispanic population. Festivities, especially in the USA, usually include parades, eating, dancing, drinking and sombrero-wearing party-goers.
Cinco de Mayo has helped bridge a cultural divide. It is truly a celebration of the power of community and the importance of sharing with and learning from the vast array of cultures surrounding us.